Confessions of a Digital Novelist

Archive for March, 2010

Amazon’s Digital Text Platform Comes to Canada and Changes Everything … again

by on Mar.30, 2010, under Digital Publishing, Tools of the Trade

Wow, I can’t believe that I missed this one.  Back in January, Amazon announced that it was extending its groundbreaking Digital Text Platform to non-US authors.  The complete story is here.

This is big news indeed for the cut-the-publisher-out-of-the-picture movement. Today, Amazon announced that it has opened its Kindle Digital Text Platform (DTP)–which is the Web-platform that allows writers to upload and sell their own Kindle books, meaning to self publish via the Kindle Store–to writers all over the world writing in English, German and French. Previously, only US-based writers could take advantage of the DTP.

Here’s more from Amazon, which also promises to add more languages to the DTP in the next few months: “‘We are excited to make the self-service Kindle Digital Text Platform available to authors and publishers around the world,’ said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. ‘Now any content owner can offer English, German or French-language books to the fast-growing audience of Kindle owners around the globe.'”

Whatever one’s grievances with Amazon may be, it has done a pretty good job of creating an international bookstore. And now that authors living all over can upload books, we have the potential to get heretofore unimagined texts, though most of them will likely be very bad, and all of them will be hard to find.

For authors like myself, this is huge.  My earlier game plan was to get my stories onto iPhones by going through Smashwords.  Smashwords would have allowed me to sell my stories directly through the excellent Stanza app.  However, there were a number of problems that bothered me.  As I said at the time:

To format it properly for all of the different digital formats that are in use these days, Smashwords feeds the manuscript through a software program called the “Meat Grinder”.  This gives the author almost no control over the final end product.  In a perfect world, I would prefer to use Amazon’s Digital Text Platform.  Amazon’s DTP would give more control over the final product and make my manuscript available to buy on both the Amazon Kindle and the Kindle app for iPhone.  Rather than buying it through an obscure websitem, Amazon’s DTP would allow me to sell my novel on the popular Amazon store.  Unfortunately, neither the DTP or the Kindle are available yet in Canada so I will have to stick to Smashwords for the time being.

Well Hallelujah.  Christmas has come early.  Not only do I avoid the atrocious formatting of the “Meat Grinder”, not only do I get access to the world’s biggest online e-book store, but my stories will now be available to everyone with a Kindle or the Kindle App for iPhone.  Yes, I can now publish to the iPhone.  All without paying a dime.  Incredible.  God Bless Amazon.

For those of you who are not familiar with Amazon’s Digital Text Platform, it is a service that allows you to log in with your Amazon account and upload your manuscript directly to the Amazon Store.  There is no middlemen.  There is no publisher.  Just you, your audience, and Amazon taking 70% of every sale.  The most significant barrier to publication has now been removed.  The only problem is that now everyone can publish, so getting your manuscript noticed becomes a Herculean task.

But that’s a challenge I live for.  I’m just happy that my wish has come true.  I can now publish to Amazon, the iPhone, and to the Kindle.  Now I have to just figure out how to publish to the iPad.

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The Solution to Any Computer Problem

by on Mar.25, 2010, under Tools of the Trade

I’ve been waylaid from writing for the past couple of weeks by computer problems.  First, my old PC, a Compaq Presario SR2020NX that I purchased in 2006, started to stop showing its video to the screen.  The problem was intermittent so I muddled through the problem by turning the system on and off continuously until the video finally appeared.  Now obviously this could not continue forever so soon enough the computer finally died.

To fix it, I took it into Computer Computers and found that the problem was with the motherboard.  In short, it was toast. $115 later, I was the proud owner of a refurbished.  However, since Windows ties its software products onto a computer’s motherboard, replacing the motherboard creates a little bit of a problem.  Numerous problems followed and resisted my attempts to fix them.

So I tried the include PC Restore.  No go.  OK, I thought.  It was time to pull out the big guns – FULL WINDOWS REINSTALL.  Black Screen of Death.  It didn’t even have the courtesy of giving me that nice Blue Colour.

Now that was it.  I couldn’t risk playing around any more or risk losing my hard drive data.  So I bit the bullet and went to the Mac Store to buy a Mac Mini.  I had planning on buying a Mac Mini for a while but I was waiting for them to update it with HDMI.  But with a broken computer, my taxes due, and an estimated update two or three months away, I had no real choice.  It was time to make the leap.

I bought a 2.35 GHz Mac Mini with 4 GB of Ram and 320 GB of Hard Drive Space.  I also picked up a wireless keyboard, magic mouse, a copy of iWork, and most importantly the three-year extended warranty.  All in all, it cost me about $1500.  It had better be the best computer I’ve ever had.

Despite a false alarm when I thought that my Mac had bricked, the transition has worked out pretty good.  Everything works smoothly, the sound quality for my music is vastly superior, and everything works the way the should.  I can’t complain.  Another reason that I made the shift was the Mac has lots of great software for writers.  Currently, I’m trying out StoryMill and have been greatly impressed.  I still want to try out Scrivener before I pony up $50 to buy the software but so far it is much better writing environment for Prose Fiction than Movie Magic Screenwriter.  Once I get more familiar with it, I’ll write a column about it.

With my computer programs behind me, I should be able to write and blog more often.  Stay tuned to this site for more updates.  But if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the solution to any computer problem is to buy a Mac.

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Pegasus Book Group Joins iPad Lineup

by on Mar.23, 2010, under Digital Publishing

Macrumours.com (hey, I’m waiting for the mac mini and MacBook Pro upgrades alright!) is reporting that Pegasus Books Group has agreed to bring their entire line of indepndent books to the iPad. The news story can be found online at http://www.macrumors.com/2010/03/22/apple-signs-up-independent-publisher-and-distributor-perseus-books-for-ibookstore.

To comment, this is definitely the direction that I expected the iPad to go. Its digital distribution network opens up incredible opportunites for small and independent publishers. The only advantage that a large publisher would have in this environment is promotion.

But it remains to be seen if Pegasus Group is the right choice for a digital noveliss like myself. While they have three hundred small publishers as clients, I still worry that I would be too small to be accepted into their clientale. I have after not yet published a single novel.

There is also a question over what cut Pegasus will take with their deal with Apple. While we know that Apple will take 30% of every sale, we don’t know how much of a cut that Pegasus Group will take on behalf of its small publishers. If it’s small enough, it may still be worth it if Pegasus improves the visibility of the novel by getting a dedicated section of the iBook Store.

While it still may be too large for ultra-small publishers like myself, it definitely deserves investigation. Most likely though I will have to wait for the CDBaby equivalent for digital publishing. Here’s hoping that I don’t have to wait long.

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